Myanmar imprisons American journalist Danny Fenster for 11 years

An army-run court in Myanmar on Friday jailed American journalist Danny Fenster for 11 years, his lawyer and employer said, dealing a blow to US efforts to secure his release.

Fenster, 37, editor-in-chief of Frontier Myanmar online magazine, was found guilty of incitement and violations of immigration laws and illegal associations, his magazine said, describing the sentences imposed as “the most severe possible under the law. “.

He is the first Western journalist to be jailed in recent years in Myanmar, where a February 1 coup by the army against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi ended a decade of tentative steps towards democracy and sparked a backlash. violent across the country.

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny on these charges,” said Thomas Kean, editor-in-chief of Frontier Myanmar, one of the country’s leading independent media outlets.

“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated by this decision. We just want Danny to be released as soon as possible so that he can go home to his family.”

Frontier Myanmar Editor-in-Chief Danny Fenster is featured in this photo taken in Yangon, Myanmar, in November 2020 (Credit: Handout via Reuters).

Fenster was arrested while trying to leave the country in May and has since been detained at the notorious Insein Prison in Yangon.

His family has repeatedly called for his release.

He was charged with additional and more serious crimes of sedition and violations of the terrorism law earlier this week, without an explanation from authorities. These charges are punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison each.

Fenster’s trial had not been made public and a board spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


The American is among dozens of journalists who were detained in Myanmar after protests and strikes broke out after the coup, hampering the army’s efforts to consolidate power. The board has accused the independent media of incitement.

The United States has been pushing for Fenster’s release. The US embassy in Myanmar did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday’s verdict.

The State Department had previously said that his detention was “deeply unjust” and “easy for the world to see,” urging the board to release him immediately.

Myanmar authorities bypassed Fenster in a recent amnesty for hundreds of people detained for protests against the junta, which included some journalists.

Phil Robertson of New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Twitter that Fenster’s imprisonment was “outrageous and unacceptable” and that the charges were fabricated and false.

During nearly half a century of harsh military rule, the state strictly controlled news reporting, but Myanmar’s media flourished after the generals introduced interim reforms beginning in 2011.

However, since the February coup, the armed forces have revoked media licenses, imposed restrictions on the Internet and satellite broadcasts, and arrested dozens of journalists, in what human rights groups have called an assault on the truth.

More than 1,200 civilians have been killed in protests and thousands have been detained since the coup, according to activists cited by the United Nations.

“A lot of things are going so wrong in this country,” Sonny Swe, a journalist and editor who was jailed during the previous era of military rule, said on Twitter.

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